How to Handle Distressed or Disruptive Online Learners

Despite this growing need to know how to work with online learners experiencing mental and emotional challenges, there has not been much written on the topic, and higher education institutions generally do not have the resources and policies in place to the extent that they do for their on-campus students, says Ken Einhaus, project manager at the Center for Applied Research Solutions who helps manage technical assistance and training for the California Community Colleges Student Mental Health Program ( The role of the online instructor is to be aware of the issues that affect the academic success of his or her students and to provide the support they need, not to serve as a therapist. One of the challenges of recognizing mental illness in one’s online students is the lack of face-to-face contact.

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